- Clinicians admit that psychological health is often neglected when physical disease is being treated
- A new scientific statement by the American Heart Association highlights the importance of mental health for overall health
- Researchers find that psychological health should be evaluated when treating patients at risk for heart disease
Existing research indicates that depression has a negative impact on the heart and is a risk factor for coronary heart disease (CHD).
Now, new research has discovered that effectively treating depression may lower the incidence of heart disease.
A statement by the American Heart Association highlights the importance of good mental health for overall wellbeing and the role it plays in promoting heart health.
A team of researchers from the AHA were tasked with evaluating the relationship between cardiovascular health and psychological health, as well as suggesting possible steps to detect and improve psychological health in persons at risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
The statement also highlights how, oftentimes, when clinicians are treating patients, they focus on physical disease and pay less attention to how psychological health “can contribute to physical health and disease”.
Mind, heart and body
“A person’s mind, heart and body are all interconnected and interdependent in what can be termed ‘the mind-heart-body-connection',” said the chair of the writing committee for the scientific statement, Glenn N. Levine.
“Research has clearly demonstrated that negative psychological factors, personality traits and mental health disorders can negatively impact cardiovascular health. On the other hand, studies have found positive psychological attributes are associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and mortality."
According to the paper, negative psychological health includes “depression, chronic stress, anxiety, anger, pessimism, and dissatisfaction with one’s current life”, and positive psychological health “may be characterised by a sense of optimism, sense of purpose, gratitude, resilience, positive affect (i.e. positive emotion) and happiness”.
Considering mental wellbeing as part of overall wellbeing
The statement highlighted that there is a clear relationship between negative psychological health and cardiovascular risk. They also found that many studies indicate that positive psychological health is linked to a decrease in the risk of cardiovascular events and resultant death.
“The data is consistent, suggesting that positive psychological traits play a part in better cardiovascular health,” Levine said. “In patients with or at risk for heart disease, health care professionals need to address the mental wellness of the patient in tandem with the physical conditions affecting the body, such as blood pressure, cholesterol levels, chest pain, etc.”